A new book purporting to tell the truth about the fall of Patrick Brown offers a rare glimpse into the machinations inside the Ontario Progressive Conservative party following his abrupt resignation as leader amid sexual misconduct allegations he denies.
In his new tell-all biography — titled Takedown: The Attempted Political Assassination of Patrick Brown — the former Tory leader portrays himself as a victim of a conspiracy led by senior party officials opposed to what he calls a moderate brand of conservatism with help from his most trusted aides.
However, the book also pulls back the curtain on what went on during the leadership race following Brown’s resignation in January, including allegations of bargaining with former prime minister Brian Mulroney about the political career of his daughter — now Ontario Attorney General Caroline Mulroney.
Brown, who is now the mayor of Brampton, Ont., alleges that Brian Mulroney promised him a place at the “centre” of his daughter’s government if the ousted Tory leader pledged his support to help her become party leader, and eventually premier.
The alleged negotiations took place during a late-night meeting in a downtown Toronto hotel’s presidential suite where the then-resigned Brown met with Brian Mulroney and his daughter Caroline’s husband Andrew Lapham.
The group met to discuss Brown potentially swinging his political support and organizational power to Caroline Mulroney, who at the time was a Tory leadership candidate but did not attend the meeting.
“…you’ll be at the centre of her government,” Brown alleges the former prime minister promised him, calling it a “handshake deal.”
Brown also alleges that months earlier, he offered Caroline Mulroney to run for Tory nomination in Toronto, but she turned it down. She also turned down an offer to run in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding, he writes, and her father was opposed to her running in Burlington, Ont., because he felt “it was a swing seat.”
Caroline Mulroney ended up winning the nomination — and a seat in the legislature — in the York-Simcoe riding northest of Toronto. Neither Caroline Mulroney nor her father responded to a request for comment late Wednesday.
During his tenure as leader, Brown and the party came under criticism for voting irregularities that were alleged to have taken place at a number of nomination meetings across the province. After Brown’s resignation the party overturned the results of six disputed nominations.
Police continue to investigate allegations of voter fraud at a Tory riding nomination meeting in Hamilton West-Ancaster Dundas in May 2017.
Political parties in Canada operate as private entities, so the public rarely gets to see the manoeuvring that takes place behind the scenes, said Cristine de Clercy, a political science professor at Western University.
“So it is pretty rare, in my experience and in the canon of books about politics, to have accounts of leadership selection mechanics written by people who were leaders or who were at such an elite level as Mr. Brown,” she said.
While it’s not surprising that Brian Mulroney would help his daughter’s political career, the fact that the Ontario election saw so much overlap between federal and provincial politics is unusual, de Clercy said.
“We tend often in Canada to keep the federal politicians at the federal level and the provincial politicians at the provincial level, but this past campaign we saw a lot of interlacing of federal politicians interested in the provincial race, running in the provincial race, wanting to run in the provincial race,” she said.
University of Toronto political science professor Nelson Wiseman said what stands out about Brown’s book is his “exceptional bitterness.” There appears to be little political strategy behind the release of the tell-all other than to “throw boulders”, he said.
“It puts Patrick Brown’s name back in the news cycle for a day,” he said. “But what will it accomplish for Brampton or for him or for the Conservative party? Nothing. It’s good news for the Liberals and NDP.”